Network Sidney Lumet

Watching the 1976 film Network 20 years later is a stark lesson in perspective. At the time, the shockingly good film was an over-the-top satire of the commercialisation of the news; now, it looks like an extremely prescient look at the news reality of today. It's hard to imagine a more outrageous opening gambit than when Howard Beale (the stunning Peter Finch), on the verge of being fired from his anchor job for low ratings, goes on the air and announces that he'll kill himself, live on the air, a week later — thus giving the promotions department enough time to boost ratings for his "stunt." That's the starting point; where it goes from there is down a path that is part jet-black comedy, part brutal media attack, as Beale becomes a national hero and media soothsayer. From the incisive script by playwright Paddy Chayefsky to the direction of Sidney Lumet to the spectacular performances — Finch, William Holden as the news director and Faye Dunaway as the entertainment programmer who takes over the news show — the film is spot-on spectacular. The firestorm caused by Finch's on-air outburst, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" became a defining pop culture "moment," but it's not difficult to see parallels between this fictional account and Anderson Cooper's media-savvy outrage during Hurricane Katrina. Extensive, remarkable new features showcase the making of the film, how Lumet's boundary-pushing directing drove Finch to the brink, its social impact and the challenges of balancing fierce political commentary with spontaneous laughs. Network is not only one of the great films of its time; it's an eerie foreshadowing not of our future but of our present. Plus: commentary, vintages interviews, more. (MGM/Warner)